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China Chilcano - Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian) in a 7,000-Foot Space in Penn Quarter


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According to the Best Bites Blog this location will be a new Jose Andres Chifa concept.    

Here's Tom S's input from the Post.

There are only 4 comments.  3 positive and 1 negative, but it made me laugh:  "he should stick to spanish tapas...even jaleo sucks and now he wants to venture into chifa?"  It's rough out there!

China Chilcano, 418 7th St NW, DC, is opening on Jan. 5, 2015 (via Maura Judkis' tweet).

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More info here from the Washingtonian, including this:

...Take a seat at the raw bar to see Nikkei, Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, in action. Former Sushi-Ko chef Koji Terrano teamed up with Think Food Group for the restaurant, and may be spotted behind the bar making ceviches, sashimi, and "causaki."...
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Well, Andrés used to eat a fair amount at Sushi-Ko when Koji was there, so this is logical. Koji will have some learning to do, but he has the talent to do it.

I wonder if José will bring back those little old Mexican ladies pounding out the tortillas right at the entrance of the Crystal City Oyamel? They seemed to be hard workers - surely, some of their skills are transferable if they're still in the business. And they were so cute!

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Wandered in at 5:30 hoping to catch a seat at the bar, which was full, but we were offered a table, even though reservations had been limited for the (soft?) opening night

This restaurant is beautiful (and smaller than I imagined), and the service is equally attractive - casual but fairly polished. Cocktails were all on point, other than the "Ma Collins."

And the food was pretty to look at, and satisfying across the board. The ceviches are winners (but think composed, not hearty). There is a section of sushi/causa hybrids (causa being a Peruvian potato preparation); I enjoyed the uni. Siu mai came across as authentic, despite the inexplicable gold flakes (is that a thing?), and the vegetable fried rice dish was plenty tasty.

This menu admittedly plays into my wheelhouse, but despite my biases I would be surprised if this wasn't well-received broadly

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We ate here last night before the Caps game.  I am really surprised there is little discussion on this board about this place given that is was really good and i would definatly go back.

We got there at 5:45 it was fairly empty but an hour later it was full.  Service was great and our server really knew each dish as he was able to explain in detail what it was.  These are small plates meant to be shared, we had 4 plates and a bowl of chips and were really full.  The space is reaally nice and lively.

Plaintain chips with sweet potato sauce.  Good kick and a great way to start the meal.

Nobu Usuzukuri-This was flouder cerviche.  Beautiful slices of flounder with radish.  Plate was large and this was really good.

Lamb Potstickers- Another great dish.  Came with a lace of Cumin which added great flavor to each bite.

Aeropuerto-Advertised as fried rice with 20 vegtables.. Another great dish.  Lots of tiny chopped veggies with good flavor..Really didnt notice much rice at all.

Short Rib-I am always a sucker for Short Ribs and this was very good.

Jose Andres is one very smart guy and he has executed this concept very well.  Choose wisely on the menu and you will not be disappointed.

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Everyday for the last two years, my life is centered around Japanese food. (mostly sushi but there are a lot of tangent conversations about other aspects of the Japanese cuisine) So when I learned about Nikkei cuisine, I was very intrigued. And with Ocopa opening less than a mile from my house, I had a destination to quench my curiosity. Upon learning that Jose Andres, once a chef- now a great restaurateur, was opening what I perceive to be a Nikkei restaurant on steroids, I was happy to have another opportunity to experience this unique combination.

With my birthday approaching, my fiance wanted to surprise me with a nice dinner, so she made reservations. (She forgot to clear the history on her browser, so I quickly figured out where we were going to go) When we showed up on a Sunday evening, the place was about half full, by the time we left, they were almost close to capacity. One thing I noticed that surprised me was the amount of older (65+) clients. Maybe it was the time of our reservation, or maybe they had early bird specials we didn't know about, but half of the tables I observed was in the older crowd.

Service was laid back. Our server was very knowledgeable and I could sense his excitement to be part of their team. (Towards the end of the meal, I asked him when and how he joined the team, and he said that he is Peruvian and when he heard about the place, he quit his job and wanted to work there.)

For food, we tried hakao (steamed glass dumpling), sanguche de chancho nipon (pork belly),  uni causagris, engawa with uni nigiri, aji de gallina, nobu usuzukuri, and for dessert suspiro limena, and marcianos. Most enjoyable dishes for the night were the aji de gallina and suspiro limena. Instead of breaking each dish down to what was good or bad for me, I`ll say this, at Ocopa, I felt a sense of authenticity and I felt I was part of the establishment even if they had a rougher experience compared to China Chilcano. At China Chilcano, I felt a sense of being a spectator as if I was at Folger Theater, I was able to observe the experience, but my role was very defined; arrive, order, eat, and leave.

The restaurant itself is very polished and thinking about how much it would take to make a space that big this polished gives me wild dreams of what I can do with 1/10th of that budget. So it's nice to see that Mr. Andres and his team went all out to bring a new addition to our city. I think China Chilcano will find their line and define a standard and like all other restaurants under Mr. Andres' empire, perform at that level to those who want to experience an ethnic experience, but not that much.

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Hung out here during the downpour yesterday.  It's a fun space and I'm a sucker for fusion food.  Thought everything was good to excellent.

Ceviche Clasico- fish was very fresh, mixed with sweet potatoes and little corn-nut like thingies.  Just a little bit of spice.  Very good.

Lucky Siu Mai- three types of dumplings (4 of each), including pork/shrimp (dorado), scallop (concha) and chicken (pollo).  All good though the Dorado was a standout with the peanut crunch and topped with a fried quail egg.

Sí¡nguche de Chancho Nipí³n- pork belly tucked into a lightly fried bun.  Combination with sauce and a bit of daikon makes this really stellar. Seems a bit overpriced at one bun for $8.

California Roll- potato is the base instead of rice.  Topped with crab salad and tobiko with really tasty, spicy sauce on the side.  Thought this was a little boring but really loved that sauce.

Concolí³n- first of two noodle/rice dishes, both must gets. This dish was prepared table side in a hot bowl.  Combination of pork belly, chicken, chinese sausage, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms (really juicy and delicious) and crispy fried rice.  A lot going on with all these tastes.  Can't decide it it's more like a Chinese version of bibimbap or a riff on Chinese sticky rice.  In any event, if you like this kind of thing, you'll find it delicious.

Aeropuerto- the menu says there are 20 vegetables.   Everything is chopped up fine along with some rice and thin noodles.  It's a really delicious mash-up when combined with a tasty soy-based sauce.

Kudos to Jose Andres for a unique concept. Only negative is the price.  It seems that the price for a proper meal here is $50-$60 per person and that's without drinks and dessert.

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Had a tasty but overpriced lunch here yesterday.  It's hard to tell from the item descriptions which items will be large and which ones small - my friend's Arroz a la Cubano (White rice, fried eggs, fresh tomato, cucumber, fried plantain, fried potato) was at least twice as much food as my Dorado (7pc siu mai - golden egg, shrimp, pork, jicama, shiitake mushroom).  The siu mai were smaller than I'm used to (though each was topped with a soft-cooked small egg - maybe a quail egg? - so that made them a little more filling), and I had thought 7 of them would be enough for lunch with a side of veggies, but I was still fairly hungry after eating them.  They were delicious - though I definitely could have done w/o the gold leaf on top, which wasn't listed and which I'm sure added to the price - and I did not taste the peanut, but something crunched.  The arroz a la Cubano was a large bowl full, with two large eggs, two plantains, and everything else smaller and diced on top of the rice (along with an orange pepper that wasn't listed in the ingredients and that was very tasty) - since it was bigger than my friend wanted for her meal and I was still hungry, I had a fair amount of it.  We also shared the Jolantao (wok-charred sugar snap peas, jang, ponzu air), which were very tasty and in a nice flavorful sauce (soy-based, I think, but unusual tasting).

We shared Suspiro Limeí±a ("iconic dessert of Peru: sweetened condensed milk custard topped with soft and crunchy meringue, passion fruit"), which was lovely - the custard tasted a little like dulce de leche and we left none behind.

The horchata (which contains quinoa as well as almond milk and cinnamon) was excellent and had a bit of a different flavor from ones I've had before.

Service was extremely slow, though friendly, and lunch took much longer than it should have.

One annoyance to beware of:  the bathrooms contain chalk in the main outer area, and the stall walls are completely covered by many people's chalk writing - including on the stall door.  I hung my new purse on the hook on the back of the door without noticing this, and took it down covered in chalk that had rubbed off.  Luckily it came off with water, but if you have a delicate bag or jacket, do NOT hang it on the door.

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went with a friend from Peru and we all had a great time and wonderful food and drinks.

Small plates to share

The waitress was fun and eduational, the drinks were plentiful (5 spice old fashion was my favorite)

Everything was great but outstanding was the Nobu Usuzukuri (Ceviche), Dorado (Dim Sum), Lengua de Pato.

Was able to find a good mix of spicy and non (Two of us were non) and everyone had things they enjoyed.

Grandma:  Nope - food would be to strange for her and much to loud

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Am I the only person who read this and got chills up my spine?

Somewhat tangential from your point, perhaps, but my impression of CC during my one brief visit there was that -- for all the glitter and delight -- it was utterly corporate, perhaps too perfect?  The decor, the food, the drinks, the staff -- all very sort-of wonderful, but all seemingly very planned out.  The package as a whole lacked a certain, I don't know, soul, for lack of a better word.  I would certainly drop by there again, if I were in the neighborhood, but it struck me more as an expense account place than a fun place.  I guess I just like things a little rough around the edges.

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I admit that I was fully prepared to dislike China Chilcano, even as I made our reservation for dinner with the in-laws yesterday.  As Don and Waitman have mentioned, I snottily had my nose pre-elevated, sure that this corporate behemoth would fall far short of my scrappy neighborhood favorite, Ocopa.  About halfway through the meal, I shook my head, turned to my wife, and said it out loud...we were being served fabulous food that was on par with, and in some cases better than what we've eaten in our last few visits to Ocopa.

We ate through a good chunk of the menu, and frankly everything hit.  Stars of the evening were the Pegao Norteí±o (lamb potstickers with a crispy cumin "lattice"), the Hawaiian sunfish ceviche, and the Concolí³n (fried rice with a variety of meats).   A salad of hearts of palm served as a nice cool, acidic foil to the umami bomb of the fried rice.  If I had to replace anything, it may be the Aeropuerto (vegetable fried rice), if only because we were doubled up on the rice with the Concolí³n.

The scene is decidedly not small and comfortable, and the service is of the "may I explain Chef's concept" variety that annoys the shit out of me, but that aside, we had a very strong meal that I could comfortably recommend.

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JoshNE, just FYI, I've heard that the Ocopa chef is now at China Chilcano.

I admit that I was fully prepared to dislike China Chilcano, even as I made our reservation for dinner with the in-laws yesterday.  As Don and Waitman have mentioned, I snottily had my nose pre-elevated, sure that this corporate behemoth would fall far short of my scrappy neighborhood favorite, Ocopa.  About halfway through the meal, I shook my head, turned to my wife, and said it out loud...we were being served fabulous food that was on par with, and in some cases better than what we've eaten in our last few visits to Ocopa.

We ate through a good chunk of the menu, and frankly everything hit.  Stars of the evening were the Pegao Norteí±o (lamb potstickers with a crispy cumin "lattice"), the Hawaiian sunfish ceviche, and the Concolí³n (fried rice with a variety of meats).   A salad of hearts of palm served as a nice cool, acidic foil to the umami bomb of the fried rice.  If I had to replace anything, it may be the Aeropuerto (vegetable fried rice), if only because we were doubled up on the rice with the Concolí³n.

The scene is decidedly not small and comfortable, and the service is of the "may I explain Chef's concept" variety that annoys the shit out of me, but that aside, we had a very strong meal that I could comfortably recommend.

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i had a surprisingly nice lunch there today. they have a 3 course lunch for $20. I started with the quinoa salad, which was large (big enough for a light lunch on its own) and delicious. we really liked the addition of the crunchy fried quinoa and the tangy quinoa was punctuated with interesting little tidbits--one bite you'd get some nice potato, another you'd get these delicious little peppers. then i had the aeropuerto which was very good as well. it's not grondbreaking, it's like a typical fried rice except a lot more vegetables, but it's a really good fried rice with lots of toasty flavor either from the wok or the charred brussels in it. and it did have lots of fried carrot threads in it, which added a nice crunch. for dessert i had the grapefruit sorbet, which was creamer, and less tart than expected. i should have gotten the suspiro limena, as my friend did. it came with some passionfruit sorbet on top and that with the almost carmel flavored custard was great. 

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MK and I walked into China Chilcano before going to see the Bond villain exhibit at the Spy Museum as we had some time.  We were really surprised how good our lunch was.  First we had a table by the window which was nice to just relax and people watch.  We ordered iced teas and the iced tea isn't lipton.  They use a white tea with dried peach from what it tasted like, it was really good.  I wanted to get the octopus, but they were out so I started with the lamb pot stickers, which had a crunchy top covering them that was really pretty and made for a great texture while eating it, I am not quite sure what it was made of, but these were delicious between the lamb, the sweet potato and the topping.  I gave MK a bite and he really liked this dish, as well.  He started with two pieces of Nigri (sunfish and hamachi), but these didn't come until after our mains came which disappointed him in terms of execution.  The nigri itself was fine, one piece had quite a hot topping, forget which one, I wouldn't focus on this if I were going again.  For main I had the udon with roasted vegetables.  This was a really delicious dish, if all vegetarian food tasted this good, I could easily eat vegetarian much more often.  The veggies were roasted perfectly, there were some greens and some nice crunch from bean sprouts, the sauce was soy and peanut and was delicious.  MK had the Tacu Tacu de Cola Chifero which had refried canario beans which he said were really good , rice, red-braised oxtail, fried egg and sauce.  I didn't eat any of this, but it looked delicious and he really liked it and a large portion for the price.  

Anyway this whole meal was really good and Matt and I were very pleasantly surprised, we were also surprised by how many vegetarian dishes were on the menu, which was a nice bonus for the future when we are going out to eat with people.

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Had my death and taxes call to serve one day/one trial jury duty which meant the opportunity to enjoy a nice quiet lunch someplace without the kids. So of course  I went to a restaurant where the kids probably would have been totally fine eating at, and enjoyed a lot of foods on the menu.

Got the three course lunch special with the addition of the duck tongue anticuchos. I am very glad I got that add-on as it was by far the best dish I had. Never knew duck tongue was so richly decadent and just melted in my mouth. Had  nice little kick to it as well.

The three courses were Ok, but nothing great about them. The chicken shiu mai were nice, but kind of like a slight variation on traditional Chinese siu mai. Perhaps with a little bolder Latin influence, it might make it more worth doing this over what would be much cheaper siu mai at one of the last remaining Chinese restaurants a block or two up north of here.  I also broke my rule about never getting spicy tuna rolls figuring this should be a place that specializes in that type of sushi. It was a good roll and not made with tuna on its last legs and needing the spice to mask bad flavors. The crispy quinoa was good, and produced the same effect tempura bits would adding a nice crunch. Again, I would have liked to see some more heat on this.The suspira limena for dessert was good, of course I have no point of reference as to what to expect on this dish. What was unusual was the amount of time it took to get the dessert course. The other three dishes came out within 30 minutes to the point where all three plates were at my table at the same time as the siu mai plate was being cleared as the last dish was being brought. Then I waited over 20 minutes for dessert.

I would like to try a wider variety of dishes and was constrained by what was available on the lunch menu. The dishes are definitely interesting twists on traditional Asian dishes through a Peruvian lens, just wish the Peruvian influences were more pronounced. Also the service needs to be better as when the judge gives you an hour for lunch, the lunch better not take a full hour.

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China Chilcano is open every single day, from 11 AM until closing: It's open 84 hours a week. It's safe to say that this restaurant better have some serious depth of staff, because you're not guaranteed of the "A Team," or even the "B Team," at any given meal - that is an absolutely brutal schedule to keep, and there must be a very high number of employees here. A lot of people made a lot of noise when Koji Terano came here to run the ceviche bar, and when Carlos Delgado came here to run the kitchen, but if you play the odds, you shouldn't count on them being here when you are.

From 4-6 PM, Mon-Fri, China Chilcano features "Pisco Hour," with a few drink and food specials, most of which are a couple of dollars off the regular price. I arrived just before 6 PM one evening, and my first order was from the special Pisco Hour menu: a Pisco Sour ($5, usually $12 - there's your bargain here) with Macchu Pisco, lime, an inch-thick coat of egg-white foam, and 5-6 drops of Amargo Chuncho bitters dotting the top, then formed into a spiral with a straw - it's a nice looking drink, and if you leave it tilted long enough, an undercurrent of Pisco Sour will emerge from beneath the viscous egg whites, providing an exciting, chilled sip of liquid to enjoy before licking the moustache off your top lip.This is a good drink, and although I've never been a huge Macchu Pisco fan, it's a good value at $5, and has a really nice flavor. My bartender, Lydia, really knew how to shake a Pisco Sour, and made a double - one for me, and one for my neighbor at the bar - apparently, there was a mix-up, and my neighbor didn't get the drink she wanted (I didn't get any details, but it was nobody's "fault"), and Lydia was going to throw it out; I told her that I was most likely going to order two, and for her to simply give it to me and put it on my bill. My neighbor warned me that she'd taken a sip, but I didn't care - I think it's a sin to waste a perfectly good drink, and it was going to be thrown away, so I insisted on paying for it, and enjoyed it about ten minutes later with an order of Atún Picante ($10, usually $12 - the big savings at Pisco Hour are on the drinks). This "spicy tuna roll," made uramaki style (an uramaki roll is one with the rice on the outside - they're often called "inside-out rolls"), had the potential to be *very* spicy, as it was made with tuna, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, puffed quinoa, and the kicker: aji limo, which is a Peruvian Lemon Drop Pepper, the purée from which will bring tears to any man's eyes. The very first bite I took was a fingertip of aji limo, and it lit me on fire, and left me wondering if this ample, eight-piece roll was going to be over-the-top. ThinkFoodGroup has a way with novel flavor combinations, so I still had hope that, if I had an entire piece in a single bite (which is exactly how this roll is designed to be eaten), the other ingredients would tame the heat, and sure enough, they did. It was a brilliant combination of flavors, and the lemon drop pepper purée was mercifully neutralized by things such as the avocado (the primary fire hydrant), the oil from the tuna, the cool cucumber, the egg white in the Pisco Sour, and I really enjoyed the dish - at $10, and even at $12, it's a fine plate well-worth ordering, and I recommend it regardless of whether it's Pisco Hour or not. One memorable condiment was the "ginger" on the side of the plate, which wasn't ginger at all; rather, it was sliced-and-piled daikon radish - a lovely surprise that brought a smile to my face.

Pisco Hour had ended, so I finished my meal ordering from the regular menu. I've always enjoyed Cusqueña ($6), as it's a fairly rare lager with malty overtones, so I finished my meal with this beer - I vehemently disagree with Beer Advocate's low rating of this beer. Yes, it's mass-produced, and tastes like it, but it also has a nice, malty flavor and is better than, for example, Fat Tire (another malty, mass-produced beer, albeit a light ale). Whenever I see Cusqueña, I'm usually at a Salvadoran-type restaurant, and often get it - I really should have gotten something more novel here, but I was in the mood for a cool one, so I went with my gut and stuck with beer.

There are three "classifications" for the food items at China Chilcano: Chifa (China), Nikkei (Japan), and Criollo (Spain and West Africa), and I was careful to get one thing from each. Koji Terano wasn't working the ceviche bar on this evening, but someone still made a pretty good Atún Picante described above (and which, ironically, is something you're more likely to see from Koji's "counterpart" (I figured that was a better word than "arch enemy"), Kaz Okochi, because of the saucing involved).

The Atún Picante was obviously marked "Nikkei," and for my second course, I went "Chifa" and ordered one of the four Sui Mai offered: the Concha ($12 for 7 dumplings), made with scallop, pork, jicama, shiitake mushroom, and tobiko. These were presented in a semi-traditional woven basket, and were worth ordering for their intelligently chosen flavor combinations. The biggest problem a purist might have with these is that the dumplings weren't cooked to an al dente texture - they were more fully cooked: not quite "floppy," but I've had sui mai countless times at countless Chinese restaurants, and these were towards the "fully cooked" end of the bell curve. However, the doneness of these dumplings wasn't a deal-breaker, and the flavors were knit together well enough where I'm happy to recommend this dish.

As I worked my way through the Sui Mai, the serene feel of the bar area became quite tense. Earlier in the meal, I had seen one of ThinkFoodGroup's upper-level employees at the other end of the restaurant, who mercifully left me alone (much appreciated). All of a sudden, the previously quiet atmosphere became infused with electricity, as if the entire staff had quaffed five shots of espresso apiece - then, I heard a deep, bellowing, Spanish-accented voice behind me and to my left. There was apparently a staff meeting taking place in the bar area, and only once in my entire dining career do I remember the entire staff leaping to attention the way they did on this evening: One evening, long ago, I was having dinner at Gerard's Place, Gerard Pangaud's outstanding little restaurant just off McPherson Square, and all of a sudden, Yannick Cam came walking in, with one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen, and took a table. Thrown into a panic, the servers began looking at each other with a "What do I do?" expression, and the entire "feel" of the dining room became one of "motion" - it was the exact same thing here, as if there was an ionized charge in the air. China Chilcano is a bustling restaurant during normal rush hour, but I purposely went during a more serene time, and the change in atmosphere was both palpable and dramatic. As one of the bartenders was filling a round of Pisco Sours, I broke the tension by joking that I would have another Cusqueña after they'd finished panicking. He laughed, and said something about "when Big Papa comes" - the entire scene was quite amusing.

To be followed by La Increíble y Triste Historia del Cándido Papa Grande y de su Presidente Desalmado.

I wanted to try a third selection from the Criollo section, especially given that this is most likely in Chef Carlos Delgado's wheelhouse - recall that he came from Ocopa, at one time the best Peruvian restaurant in DC. What else would I get other than Aji de Gallina ($16), according to the menu, "Peru's most precious dish," an Aji Amarillo Chicken Stew, with fresh cheese, pecan, and rice - the descriptors don't do this stew justice. Since it is, in origin, a long-cooked stew, I got it to go, figuring that letting it sit wouldn't hurt it, and might even help it (there is actually one drawback to doing this which you won't think of: the cardboard container is rough-hewn on the inside, and actually absorbed a fair amount of the deep, turmeric-yellow liquid from the stew - because of this one thing, I advise not getting the Aji de Gallina as a carryout item. That said, I really enjoyed this stew, and it's quite a simple dish at heart, with its deep, mustard color coming from the mild Aji Amarillo chile. There are, I believe, five species of chiles, and the Aji Amarillo is a Capsicum baccatum - fear not: This is a mild spice, and would register close to a "1" on a "1-to-10" Scoville scale.

China Chilcano is an excellent choice for diverse groups of diners, as Peruvian cuisine tends to be quite mild - mixed in with overtones of Chinese and Japanese, there is something at this restaurant for (if you'll forgive the cliché) diners from 8 to 80 - it might be a bit noisy for senior citizens, so that's something you should keep in mind. Still, China Chilcano is maintained strongly in Italic, has a $10 parking lot within two blocks (901 E St. NW), and is one of your best dining options in Penn Quarter - it is currently my favorite ThinkFoodGroup restaurant (Minibar notwithstanding) by a sizeable margin.

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On 11/10/2016 at 0:52 PM, DonRocks said:

I insisted on paying for it, and enjoyed it about ten minutes later with an order of Atún Picante ($10, usually $12 - the big savings at Pisco Hour are on the drinks). This "spicy tuna roll," made uramaki style (an uramaki roll is one with the rice on the outside - they're often called "inside-out rolls"), had the potential to be *very* spicy, as it was made with tuna, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, puffed quinoa, and the kicker: aji limo, which is a Peruvian Lemon Drop Pepper, the purée from which will bring tears to any man's eyes. The very first bite I took was a fingertip of aji limo, and it lit me on fire, and left me wondering if this ample, eight-piece roll was going to be over-the-top. ThinkFoodGroup has a way with novel flavor combinations, so I still had hope that, if I had an entire piece in a single bite (which is exactly how this roll is designed to be eaten), the other ingredients would tame the heat, and sure enough, they did. It was a brilliant combination of flavors, and the lemon drop pepper purée was mercifully neutralized by things such as the avocado (the primary fire hydrant), the oil from the tuna, the cool cucumber, the egg white in the Pisco Sour, and I really enjoyed the dish - at $10, and even at $12, it's a fine plate well-worth ordering, and I recommend it regardless of whether it's Pisco Hour or not. One memorable condiment was the "ginger" on the side of the plate, which wasn't ginger at all; rather, it was sliced-and-piled daikon radish - a lovely surprise that brought a smile to my face.
...
There are three "classifications" for the food items at China Chilcano: Chifa (China), Nikkei (Japan), and Criollo (Spain and West Africa), and I was careful to get one thing from each. Koji Terano wasn't working the ceviche bar on this evening, but someone still made a pretty good Atún Picante described above (and which, ironically, is something you're more likely to see from Koji's "counterpart" (I figured that was a better word than "arch enemy"), Kaz Okochi, because of the saucing involved).
...
The Atún Picante was obviously marked "Nikkei," ....

And for the record, I have absolutely no idea how the "tuna ceviche" is. 

Seriously, am I *that* bad of a writer?

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On 11/10/2016 at 3:52 PM, DonRocks said:

As I worked my way through the Sui Mai, the serene feel of the bar area became quite tense. Earlier in the meal, I had seen one of ThinkFoodGroup's upper-level employees at the other end of the restaurant, who mercifully left me alone (much appreciated). All of a sudden, the previously quiet atmosphere became infused with electricity, as if the entire staff had quaffed five shots of espresso apiece - then, I heard a deep, bellowing, Spanish-accented voice behind me and to my left. There was apparently a staff meeting taking place in the bar area, and only once in my entire dining career do I remember the entire staff leaping to attention the way they did on this evening: One evening, long ago, I was having dinner at Gerard's Place, Gerard Pangaud's outstanding little restaurant just off McPherson Square, and all of a sudden, Yannick Cam came walking in, with one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen, and took a table. Thrown into a panic, the servers began looking at each other with a "What do I do?" expression, and the entire "feel" of the dining room became one of "motion" - it was the exact same thing here, as if there was an ionized charge in the air. China Chilcano is a bustling restaurant during normal rush hour, but I purposely went during a more serene time, and the change in atmosphere was both palpable and dramatic. As one of the bartenders was filling a round of Pisco Sours, I broke the tension by joking that I would have another Cusqueña after they'd finished panicking. He laughed, and said something about "when Big Papa comes" - the entire scene was quite amusing.

Great writing! Reminded me immediately of a trip to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris a number of years ago. All was going smoothly, then Chef Robuchon came in for dinner. You could look across the counters and see the staff begin to perspire immediately

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2 hours ago, Bart said:

Same thing happened to me at Central. The head chef showed up and ruined our evening. 

In my case, Robuchon didn't ruin our evening - in fact, he was charming, and the staff was eventually put at ease. But the energy in the room did change noticeably upon his arrival.

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We had a really lovely brunch the other day here with my SIL and BIL.  We drove in with my BIL and got there a bit before my SIL.  They had no problem seating us, we ordered cocktails- I had their version of a dark and stormy and a light cava cocktail, both were good.  We started with the plantain chips and fried yuka.  The sauce with the plantain chips was addictive, I am going to look for a recipe for that sweet potato-rocoto sauce (and now would be a good time, I have sweet potatoes.  The yuka with eel sauce and bonito flakes was awesome too.  I also like their little corn kernels you get at the table.  For breakfast I had the tortilla china- which was not as good as other things on their menu. I had one of the duck tongue skewers with potato, which was a nice little taste.  I also had some of the jook- which was really tasty- almost breakfasty with rice, pork belly, egg, I would order this myself sometimes.   I also tried the atun roll, which I liked (I didn't taste much cilantro which was a good thing) and the Tam Tam noodles which were really good. I continue to really like this place.

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We had a very good lunch there today, even tho not everything was a hit. Also, fwiw, I hadn't read any previous reviews.

The bright spots included: (1) Dancing Yucca, basically bacon and cheese fries, which could be a meal on its own given how heavy and ample the portion is. These were amazing, really; (2) Kam Lu Wantan, deep fried dumplings with a tasty sauce (7 to an order); (3) Aji de Gallina, a chicken dish with cheese, potatoes, olives, rice, in a tasty yellow, curry-like sauce. The sauce wasn't over spiced, and showed some real care. 

The good: Sanguche de Pescado, which was a catfish taco-style pork bun. Tasty mayo.

The Bad: (1) Jook, which has tasty pork belly, but I didn't care for the "congee of rice" which had the consistency of oatmeal, something I don't personally care for, but recognize it may be exactly what it's supposed to be. (2) Tam Tam, a noodle dish, but the noodles were cooked poorly. Many of them stuck together and couldn't be separated; it was like they congealed and were gummy. A better cooked noodle and this would have been a bright spot.

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My sister and I went to China Chilcano for an early dinner before the theater. Because I had read this thread beforehand, I suggested we get there a bit before 6 to take advantage of Pisco Hour. When I arrived, my sister was sitting at a table in the restaurant and said she tried to order a Pisco Sour but was told that they couldn't serve the happy hour drink in the restaurant. I then went to the bar myself and ordered two of the drinks. But the bartender asked me if there was going to be someone else with me, and I said "yes" and pointed to my sister at the table. He said the happy hour price was for only the bar, not the whole restaurant. So I returned drinkless. We ordered a glass of wine each (a quite good rose) but no cocktails. We liked the food (I had the chicken stew), but the refusal of Pisco Hour put a damper on the dinner. It's a matter of expectations. We probably would have ordered cocktails if we hadn't known that people a few feet away were getting the same thing for less than half price. (And I should have told the waiter that we weren't sharing everything. Her selections came first and I had to wait a long time to get stew. If we'd intended to share, that would have been fine. I need to remember to tell the staff at Andres places when we need food at the same time. That's on me.)

Question: Was I wrong to expect happy hour drinks prices while sitting in the restaurant rather than the bar? I've been to other restaurants with happy hour, and they serve you no matter where you are sitting.

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6 minutes ago, DCA said:

Question: Was I wrong to expect happy hour drinks prices while sitting in the restaurant rather than the bar? I've been to other restaurants with happy hour, and they serve you no matter where you are sitting.

I don't think it is common to get table service and happy hour prices, at least not from what I have encountered. From the restaurant perspective- it takes more staff to do this, and takes away tables from diners likely going to order more (I am sure they have other reasons).  You could have ordered drinks, taken a few sips at the bar, closed your tab and asked for a table?

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16 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

You could have ordered drinks, taken a few sips at the bar, closed your tab and asked for a table?

I did think of this, but my sister was already at a restaurant table. I kind of understood them not serving us at the table, for the reasons you gave, but I was surprised that I was not allowed to order two drinks at the bar and carry them away myself. It wasn't a big deal but just surprised us.

Just to clarify - we didn't intend to order food from a happy hour menu. We ordered a normal dinner. We just thought a Pisco would be a nice thing to start the dinner.

Edited by DCA
To clarify
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6 hours ago, DCA said:

We probably would have ordered cocktails if we hadn't known that people a few feet away were getting the same thing for less than half price.

I think different places have different policies on happy hour, and establishments that identify more for the food than for the drinks tend to be stricter with happy hour conditions.

Of course, the most baffling bar special HAS to be at Oyamel, where I once arrived specifically for the late-night 2 tacos for $4 special at the bar.  The bar is a horse-shoe, and the left side was two deep whereas the right side had a couple open seats.  I sat on the right side of the bar.  After enjoying my late night snack, imagine my surprise when I was hit for the full total.  "Oh no, sir, that special only applies on the LEFT side of the bar."  No way, Jose!  So that's why that side was so crowded.  Talk about watching the other side getting the same thing for less than half price!

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I'm no expert on this type of cuisine. I've never been to Peru and have only eaten in one other DC-based Peruvian restaurant (well other than Peruvian chicken joints of course).  But overall we had a pretty tasty dinner at China Chilcano recently.  

The best dishes we had were the Aeropuerto (Fried rice, egg noodle, crisp sweet potato, seasonal vegetables, soy bean sprout, "airplanes") and the Carapulcra (Pork belly, dried potato, ají panca, cinnamon, chocolate, peanuts).  I feel like I could order these two dishes again and be happy.

The California Roll (Potato causa, jumbo lump crab, spicy mayo, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, huancaína sauce) was really about 8 postage stamp sized cubes of the potato causa topped with the crab and accompaniments.  It was also a good mix of flavors, but perhaps not $16 good.

Bok Choy al Sillao (Baby bok choy, shiitake mushroom, oyster sauce) made for a good simple vegetable side dish and I would be happy to order it again.  Our other vegetable dish, the Papas a la Huancaina (Yukon gold potatoes, ají amarillo, queso fresco, botija olives, quail egg), was kinda of an interesting mess:  slices of potato in a thick, almost mayo like sauce, which I'm guessing was a mixture of the aji amarillo sauce and queso fresco.  The sauce was very heavy and the plate was basically beige on beige.  It wasn't a bad dish, but I'd probably order something else next time.  

Unfortunately the Ceviche Clasico (Fish of the day, leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion, cancha, cilantro) was not good.  Unidentified cubes of a white fish in a flavorless sauce.  I'm guessing any Peruvian would shake their head in disappointment. 

We had theater tickets and were running late, and they got us in and out in about an hour.  We specifically told them not to worry about pacing and ordered all our dishes in one salvo.  

Is this "authentic"...I have no clue.  My Peruvian neighbor went shortly after they opened and was pretty scathing.  I feel like you can probably go here and order from the noodle/rice/meat sections and eat some tasty food.  And it's not a bad option if you have theater tickets, Woolly and Shakespeare theaters are just steps away.

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Quick note to say that I've enjoyed both recent trips which happened to be on two consecutive days. The menu is confusing but i really enjoyed both meals. All good:
cauliflower side

boc choy side

eel lunch bowl

shrimp/sweet potato/squash thing on the lunch menu

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56 minutes ago, NolaCaine said:

Quick note to say that I've enjoyed both recent trips which happened to be on two consecutive days. The menu is confusing but i really enjoyed both meals. All good:
cauliflower side

boc choy side

eel lunch bowl

shrimp/sweet potato/squash thing on the lunch menu

I had dinner here on Mar 17 - it was good. Not great, but good. Interestingly, like at Chloe, we got *the* last two seats in the restaurant, in this case, sideways-facing seats on the side of the ceviche bar - really not a bad place to sit, but you can't hate the person you're with.

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3 hours ago, DonRocks said:

I had dinner here on Mar 17 - it was good. Not great, but good. Interestingly, like at Chloe, we got *the* last two seats in the restaurant, in this case, sideways-facing seats on the side of the ceviche bar - really not a bad place to sit, but you can't hate the person you're with.

I strive to dine with people I don't hate. It usually works out. 

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